Salt Lake City Budget 101

It's your city, it's your business!

The budget is one of the Council’s strongest policy-making tools.

The Mayor works with each City department to draft a recommended budget. The Mayor then presents her recommended budget to the Council on May 7 (for the fiscal year of July 1 2019 – June 30 2020). The Council holds several discussions in May and June, which the public is welcome to attend. State law requires the Council to adopt the budget by the end of June. If the budget results in any potential increase to property taxes, the City also holds a Truth in Taxation hearing in August.

Once the budget is adopted, the Council monitors progress through reports from the Mayor's Administration. If programs don't reflect policy goals, revisions can be made through Budget Amendments, which happen several times a year. Take a more detailed look at the City’s budget process.

Truth in Taxation

Truth in Taxation is a State-required hearing that happens whenever any of the following takes place:

  • The City raises property taxes
  • Property Tax Stabilization*
  • Judgement Levy*

In years where any of the above happen, the City budget is not technically adopted until this hearing is held and closed. Although the hearing is a formal step required by the State, the City Council is always interested in hearing from the public. Feedback from the public helps the Council make decisions in future budgets.

Note: If you’ve received your property tax assessment and wish to protest, visit Salt Lake County’s Appeals Page.

*Explanation in glossary

Glossary of Budget Terms

Annual Budget – The key document adopted by the City Council each June that details the upcoming fiscal year budgets for all City departments and funds.

Budget Amendment – A periodic adjustment to the annual budget to reflect changes in revenues, expenses, and projects.

Capital Improvement Program (CIP) – A multi-year plan of large project and equipment purchases that are typically over $50,000 each. The City Council reviews the plan each year and decides which items to fund. The CIP Fund pays for big projects like new park amenities, public building upgrades, and street reconstructions.

Consolidated Fee Schedule (CFS) – A CFS is adopted by ordinance to establish fees charged by the City to recover the cost of providing additional services to the public. The CFS may be amended from time to time by the City Council. No fee may be imposed by the City except as shown on the Salt Lake City CFS or as otherwise authorized by law.

Establishing a consolidated fee schedule transfers City fee provisions listed in numerous places in the City code into a single document organized by department and function. The CFS does not include late fees, penalties/fines, refunds, waivers, and/or discounts. The primary intent of the consolidation is to make City fee information transparent and readily available to the public.

Contingent Appropriation – Funding approved by the Council but only available if certain conditions are met.

Encumber Funds – Setting aside money to pay for future obligations or expenses.

Enterprise Fund – A government program funded separate from a general fund and operated like a business (incoming revenues cover outgoing expenses). Examples of Salt Lake City enterprise funds are the golf program, street lighting, and airport.

Fiscal Year – the 12 month period used for budgeting, taxing, and accounting of government funds. Utah cities have a fiscal year running July 1 through June 30.

Fund Balance – Also known as a “rainy day fund,” this account represents the City’s savings account in case of an emergency or other urgent funding needs.

General Fund – The primary account a city uses to fund department operations and personnel expenses like salaries and benefits.

Judgement Levy - A judgement levy is a one-time, one-year property tax increase to pay the City back for decreased property tax revenue from the previous year - usually from people/businesses protesting their property taxes with the Board of Equalization. Because it is technically a tax increase, this step requires a Truth in Taxation hearing. The City can only levy the exact amount that was protested/withheld in the previous year.

Legislative Intent – A formal notification to the Mayor’s Administration about specific actions the City Council plans to take in order to advance a stated policy.

Property Tax Stabilization - If property tax revenues are higher than budgeted in a fiscal year, that money becomes “one-time” money, unless the City holds a Truth in Taxation hearing to raise the official property tax budget by that same amount.

If the economy continues to grow, only new money from growth will be paying for this extra revenue.

If the economy experiences a downturn, this new revenue standard still needs to be met. By Truth in Taxation law, all taxpayers would pay to make up the difference, since Truth in Taxation law guarantees the City the same amount each year.

Recapture Funds – Taking unspent money that has already been approved by the Council and re-purposing it for a different use.

Staffing Document – An official City document listing approved employee positions by department. It is adopted by the Council along with the annual budget each year.

Structural Deficit – An ongoing budget shortfall caused by a fundamental imbalance when spending is greater than revenues. Conversely, a structural surplus occurs when ongoing revenues exceed spending.

Tax Increment – the growth in property tax revenue caused by an increase in property values that a project area experiences.

Truth in Taxation – A process required by state law to notify property owners when property taxes increase. If taxes are raised in order to collect more money than the previous year – or when taxes are raised to make up for revenue fluctuations – government agencies must hold a public hearing where residents can weigh in.

Vacancy Savings – Unspent funds resulting from an employee position going unfilled for part or all of a fiscal year.